On Releasing Laquan McDonald’s Murder Video And Disregard For Black Bodies

11.24.15 2 years ago 14 Comments

Words By Garfield Hylton

On Wednesday, November 25th, the video of Laquan McDonald’s shooting is going to be available to the general public, according to a report by the Huffington Post. McDonald, a 17-year-old Black teenager, is the latest victim of trigger happy police officers after he was shot by White police officer Jason Van Dyke. McDonald was on October 20th, 2014, but the video hasn’t been seen by anyone other than those close to the investigation. On Monday, Chicago’s mayor Rahm Emanuel met with community leaders in hopes of cooling off the anger that will likely burning hot be in response to the release of the video.

The footage from a patrol car dashboard camera is being released as a result of a judicial order stemming from a lawsuit brought by a freelance journalist. Also on Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the officer involved would face criminal charges, citing unnamed sources. A spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

The video will show McDonald being shot 16 times. Community leaders are concerned and have said that people are not happy about the video’s impending release. Local leader Rev. Ira Acree of the Greater St. John Bible Church said, “Many in my community feel betrayed, they are so very angry and protests are imminent. It’s clear from the meeting today that Emanuel knows that.”

America’s callous disregard to the trauma of Black death isn’t surprising. Throughout this country’s history, there’s been ample evidence that America has an almost pornographic relationship and infatuation with seeing harm done to the Black body. I’m not sure why Rahm Emanuel thinks releasing a video of McDonald being shot 16 times is good for anybody, but it immediately brought to mind a favorite pastime of America that Black people know all too well – public lynchings.

In February of this year, the Equal Justice Initiative posted a 27-page pdf report about America’s history of terrorizing Black people through the act of lynching. The report included a portion about “public spectacle lynchings” and said:

Large crowds of white people, often numbering in the thousands and including elected officials and prominent citizens, gathered to witness pre-planned, heinous killings that featured prolonged torture, mutilation, dismemberment, and/or burning of the victim. White press justified and promoted these carnival-like events, with vendors selling food, printers producing postcards featuring photographs of the lynching and the corpse, and the victim’s body parts collected as souvenirs. These killings were bold, public acts that implicated the entire community and sent a message that African Americans were sub-human, their subjugation was to be achieved by any means necessary, and whites who carried out these lynchings faced no legal repercussions.

Having a “release day” for the Laquan McDonald shooting is the 2015 version of a public lynching. The only difference is instead of having to leaving the house to see it happen, people can watch it as many times as they want from the comfort of their living room. No, viewers won’t be able to stand around and take pictures with dead Black bodies, nor will they be able to take any souvenirs with them, but the video is doing what America has been doing since it’s inception. It’s reinforcing the subjugation of Black people and that we’re sub-human to the point viewing our widespread death has very little impact on their daily lives, unless of course, you happen to be Black.

There’s a segment of the population which believes the airing of these videos will be able to do more good than harm. The wisdom here is airing these barbarous videos will somehow elicit emotions and make those watching feel a sense of remorse at what’s happening to those who are victims of police brutality. I have no such optimism that will be the case. Black people are still fighting for basic human rights in a country they helped build. If it takes a video of a 17 year old being shot 16 times to elicit compassion, then that’s the sort of compassion I’d rather go without.

Anyone choosing to release this video in this, or any other, climate is being irresponsible at best and “Russell Westbrook on a fast break” level of reckless at worst. If one has to urge people to be peaceful before the video is even released, that alone should be enough to refrain from doing so. Instead, mainstream media has shown that, not unlike Kanye’s rant on George Bush some years back, they don’t give a damn about Black people.

(Via Huffington Post)

You can find Garfield ranting away on Twitter at @Smooth_Orator or hear his thoughts on his podcast, @NWAPCast.

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